Yes, I Do Have a Disability
I may not have lots of talents, but living in denial is a talent that I have honed and gotten quite proficient at over the years.
All my life, we've been made to see disability as a bad thing, a "dirty word," so to speak. So I have managed to live in denial of my RLS for almost 3 decades.
My first instinct was to say, 'I do not have a disability'
I have never even thought of myself as disabled, as this isn't really a conversation that regularly happens where I am from, especially if there is nothing physically or obviously wrong with you.
"I do not have a disability. It's not a disability," was my first instinct! "God forbid, I do not have a disability," I said out loud to myself, echoing my mother's earlier sentiments.
These are the phrases I would go on to constantly repeat to myself during job applications and interviews. I would categorically state "NO" when the question of or conversations about disability came up.
Deep down, I knew I was disabled
Here's the gag: deep down inside, I knew I was disabled, but on some level, I felt not labelling restless legs syndrome as a disability would somehow lesson its impact on my life. It didn't help that RLS is very rarely considered a disability in the medical and insurance world.
But who was I kidding? In each job, even though I had declared I didn't have a disability, I would go on to ask for different things like a swivel chair, under-the-table heaters, hours that supported my inability to sit still for too long. Yet, I "do not have a disability?" The jokes write themselves at this point.
For the first time in my life, I ticked the 'Yes' box
After a while, I started using terms like "differently abled," "leg impediment," "slightly physically challenged," etc. You see, I still saw disability as a dirty word until a couple of months ago.
One of my New Year's resolutions was to live my most authentic life as my authentic self. I was finally applying to a job I had always wanted, and when it came time to tick the disabled "Yes" or "No" box, for the first time in my life, I ticked "Yes"!
I was no longer living in denial — I felt free
It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Yes, I am disabled. So what? Did it make me any less a person? Did it make me incompetent? Did it bring down my self-worth in any way? The answer is heck NO.
Not only did I get the job, the conversation about what kind of support and concessions I'd need happened a lot sooner and made my life exponentially easier. I was no longer living in denial. I felt free.
Hi, my name is Joy. I have restless legs syndrome, and yes, it is a disability.
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